Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

1st Session, 38th Parliament,
Volume 142, Issue 91

Tuesday, October 25, 2005
The Honourable Daniel Hays, Speaker

Criminal Code

Bill to Amend—Second Reading—Debate Adjourned

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer moved second reading of Bill C-49, to amend the Criminal Code (trafficking in persons).

She said: Honourable senators, it is with great pleasure but also with some sadness that I rise today to speak in strong support of Bill C-49, to amend the Criminal Code in respect of trafficking in persons. I am very happy that Canadians are taking the necessary steps to stop the heinous crime of human trafficking, but I am very sad that these kinds of deplorable acts happen anywhere in the world, let alone right here within our borders.

Honourable senators, last week I was Abuja, Nigeria, where I met with officials of the Nigerian National Agency for the Prohibition of Traffic in Persons, NAPTIP. I also met with nine girls from the ages of 12 to 15 who had, a few days ago, been rescued in a bus station. These girls were with a woman — in Nigeria they call them “Madams” — who was preparing to traffic them as house girls in Lagos and later, when they were a little older, as sex objects in Italy. All these girls were in school, but their parents had sold them to a Nigerian Madam.

While talking to the girls, I really bonded with a young 12-year-old who was so innocent. There are many girls like her who will not be rescued. I am so privileged to speak in support of Bill C-49 because it is for girls like my little friend in Nigeria.

Honourable senators, Bill C-49 is important not only because it proposes new protections against human trafficking but also because of what it represents at its core.

It is a reflection of Canadian ideals and values in that it seeks to protect against criminal violations of fundamental human rights. It is a reflection of the Government’s commitment to these fundamental values. It is a realization of the Government’s Speech from the Throne commitment to introduce criminal law reforms to better protect against human trafficking.

To understand how important this bill is, honourable senators must understand the devastating consequences that human trafficking has on people. I will read a human trafficking experience from the U.S. 2005 Trafficking in Persons Report of a woman called Neary.

Neary grew up in rural Cambodia. Her parents died when she was a child, and, in an effort to give her a better life, her sister married her off when she was 17. Three months later, they went to visit a fishing village. Her husband rented a room in what Neary thought was a guest house. But when she woke the next morning, her husband was gone. The owner of the house told her she had been sold by her husband for $300 and that she was actually in a brothel.

For five years, Neary was raped by five to seven men every day. In addition to brutal physical and sexual abuse, Neary was infected with HIV and contracted AIDS. The brothel threw her out when she became sick, and she eventually found her way to a local shelter. She died of HIV/ AIDS at the age of 23.

Neary was a victim of human trafficking. Although she was from Cambodia, she could just as easily have been from anywhere else in the world, including Canada. Bill C-49 is for people like Neary, my young Nigerian friend, and many others.

This is a bill about people. It is about protecting the fundamental values of human security and human dignity that we value as Canadians. On third reading debate on this bill in the House of Commons, the Minister of Justice said:

…the true measure of a society’s commitment to the principles of equality and human dignity is taken by the way it protects its most vulnerable members. This is what Bill C-49 is all about. It is about more clearly recognizing and denouncing human trafficking as the persistent and pervasive assault on human rights that it is.

These are the basic principles that serve as a starting point in discussing Bill C-49.

Sadly, human trafficking is not new. Throughout history, people have been bought and sold, traded as though they were commodities in flagrant violation of their worth as individuals and for the sole benefit of those who would seek to exploit them.

Today’s human trafficking has many parallels to these historical experiences which explain why it is often described as the “contemporary global slave trade.”

While countries around the world continue to struggle to fully understand the pervasiveness of this clandestine activity, what we do know is staggering and simply unfathomable.

In a report released in May 2005, the International Labour Organization estimated that at any given time a minimum of 2.45-million people are in situations of forced labour as a result of human trafficking. The United Nations has suggested that each year as many as 700,000 persons are trafficked across international borders. Similarly, the United States, in their annual report on trafficking in persons, has placed the number between 600,000 and 800,000 persons annually.

When we hear numbers in the millions, it is difficult for us to remember that each one represents a real life. Who are these trafficking victims? They are the marginalized and the disenfranchised — the most vulnerable persons in our society.

This is a crime that disproportionately affects women and children. They are the ones who routinely face the greatest legal, social, economic and political inequality around the world. Human trafficking is very much a crime that exploits inequity and is fuelled by the greed of its perpetrators.

Human trafficking exists in as many forms as its perpetrators can devise. The International Labour Organization estimates that 43 per cent of all labour extracted as a result of human trafficking involves commercial sexual exploitation, that 32 per cent involves economic exploitation, and that the remaining 25 per cent of persons trafficked into forced labour are subjected to both economical and commercial sexual exploitation or are trafficked for purposes that cannot be determined.

Those who are exploited in the sex industry are forced to provide sexual services in massage parlours, brothels or on the street. This area of forced labour is especially pronounced in industrialized countries where the sex industry is big business, exceeding $12 billion a year.

Demand is at its greatest in the industrialized world. The ILO estimates that as much as 72 per cent of forced labour in industrialized countries is sexual exploitation.

Honourable senators, I recently spoke at a conference on human trafficking held by the European Women’s Lobby in London, England. They focused on the demand side of trafficking and were preoccupied with the way in which major sports and cultural events within the industrialized world have fuelled the trafficking of women and girls for sexual exploitation in the industrial world.

For instance, next year, when Germany hosts the World Cup of Soccer in 2006, it is estimated that there will be an influx of 30,000 to 40,000 women in prostitution to the city of Cologne during a four-week period. An increase of this magnitude would almost certainly require women who have been trafficked.

Economic exploitation can include forced labour as a domestic worker in a private household or in the agricultural, construction, garment and food processing industries. It can also include forced begging or involvement in illicit activities such as couriering drugs.

In addition, the forms of labour and services which are extracted will vary depending on where in the world the person has been trafficked.

So, for example, forced labour involving commercial sexual exploitation is more prevalent in industrialized countries than it is in transition or developing economies where forced labour for economic exploitation is more common.

As well, in some parts of the world children are at risk of being trafficked as child soldiers. One need only think of the terrible practices of such groups as the Lord’s Resistance Army, which operates in Northern Uganda and abducts children, forcing them to serve in their rebel army, to realize how far reaching the negative consequences of this crime are.

I met with some of the children who were abducted in Northern Uganda and later placed in detention centres in Gulu. The hardship to which they have been subjected is unimaginable. They have been brainwashed into harming their own families. They have cut off the lips or ears of their mothers and sisters. Today, they are in detention centres, as even their mothers and parents do not want them to return home.

Women and children are most often victims of this crime. It has been estimated that half of all victims of human trafficking are children — as many as 400,000 each year. The ILO report estimates that 98 per cent of those forced into commercial sexual exploitation are women and girls. Children who should be in schools and playing with their friends are instead subjected to terrible crimes that we can hardly comprehend. Women and girls also comprise 56 per cent of those forced into economic exploitation.

In a country that prides itself on its efforts to protect the vulnerable, these statistics are a clarion call to action. I believe, honourable senators, that Bill C-49 clearly answers that call and reflects the government’s commitment to protecting the vulnerable.

Bill C-49 proposes to amend the Criminal Code to create three new indictable offences to better protect against human trafficking.

These new offences will more clearly define and denounce this criminal conduct and they will impose increased accountability on those who seek to perpetrate this crime.

Although it is our Canadian values that demand that we respond to human trafficking, we must always remember that Canada does not exist in a bubble. Canada is part of the international effort to combat human trafficking, of which Bill C-49 represents a significant part.

In particular, Bill C-49 is consistent with the comprehensive international framework in the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children. Canada was one of the first countries to ratify the trafficking protocol, having done so in May 2002. Bill C-49 will enable Canada to remain among those countries that continue to demonstrate international leadership in the fight against this terrible crime.

Bill C-49’s proposed main offence of trafficking in persons would specifically prohibit anyone from engaging in specified acts, including recruiting, transporting, harbouring or controlling the movements of another person for the purposes of exploiting or facilitating the exploitation of that person. This offence would carry a strong penalty of life imprisonment where the offence involves kidnapping, aggravated assault, aggravated sexual assault or the death of a victim. In all other cases, the penalty would be imprisonment for 14 years.

In addition to the main offence, Bill C-49 proposes the creation of a second indictable offence to deter those who would profit from the exploitation of others. This offence would specifically prohibit anyone from receiving a financial or material benefit knowing that it results from the trafficking of another person. This new offence would carry a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment.

It is very important that we include this offence. It addresses several key elements of human trafficking that may not be as obvious as those in the main offence but without which trafficking in persons would not be as widespread as it is now.

First, it enables law enforcement to better target those who would benefit from the crime of human trafficking even where they do not engage in the physical acts involved with trafficking.

Second, it goes to one of the main reasons that trafficking not only persists, but also that it is growing; namely, it is a major revenue generator. Indeed, recent international estimates put the profits from this activity in the billions of dollars, placing it among the top three money-makers for organized crime.

The final new offence proposed by Bill C-49 is also important because it addresses behaviour that is known to help perpetuate the crime of human trafficking. Traffickers often withhold or destroy the personal documents of their victims such as passports, visas and other identification. This is just another way in which the lives of victims are controlled and dominated by those who engage in this heinous crime.

The third office proposed by Bill C-49 would prohibit the withholding or destroying of travel or identity documents in order to commit or facilitate the trafficking of persons. This new offence would carry a maximum penalty of imprisonment for five years.

The offences proposed by Bill C-49 are an attempt to strike at the very root of human trafficking and the reason that it is so sickening — the exploitation of its victims. Perhaps more than anything else exploitation is at the heart of this criminal conduct. While it may be part of what we are talking about, human trafficking is more than just recruiting and moving individuals unlawfully; it is really all about engaging in that conduct for the purpose of exploiting the victim. It is exploitation from which those involved in human trafficking draw their profits, and it is exploitation of the victim that makes it such a deplorable activity.

To paraphrase the work of the European Union’s Experts Group of Trafficking in Human Beings, it is the forced aspect of labour or services, including forced prostitution, which is the key element to the definition of trafficking as reflected in the trafficking protocol. I would say it is the key element of Bill C-49, and that, in my opinion, is especially welcomed.

“Exploitation” is defined in Bill C-49 to mean causing another person to provide or offer to provide labour or services by engaging in conduct that can reasonably be expected to cause that person to fear for their safety or someone known to them if they fail to provide labour or services. It also includes causing them, by means of deception or the use of threat of force or any other form of coercion, to have an organ or a tissue removed. This definition is broad, and rightly so, because we know that human trafficking can take many forms.

The proposed new offences would carry significant penalties — penalties that are not only consistent with the Criminal Code itself but that are also consistent with those enacted by other countries as part of their anti-trafficking legislation.

Human trafficking is, after all, a global program. As César Chelala, an international public health consultant, noted in yesterday’s Globe and Mail:

Every year, thousands of Vietnamese women and girls are transported to China. Most are made to believe they will find good jobs and marriage prospects there. Once they reach China, however, many end up as beggars, forced labourers or prostitutes.

It is worth pausing again to note that Bill C-49 will not operate in a vacuum; it must be seen as part of a larger legislative framework that Canada has in place to protect persons from exploitation. For instance, in 2002, a specific trafficking in persons offence was created in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, or IRPA. This offence addresses human trafficking that involves organized, illegal cross-border entry of persons into Canada. The first charges under the IRPA trafficking in persons offence were laid in April of this year by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police against a Vancouver massage parlour owner.

Existing Criminal Code offences are also being used to address various acts often related to human trafficking, such as kidnapping, assault, sexual assault and offences involving organized crime. Bill C-49 supplements these provisions, ensuring that the various ways in which these crimes can be committed are properly addressed including, most notably, trafficking that occurs wholly within our borders.

In other words, Bill C-49 will provide police and prosecutors with welcome new tools to ensure that no matter what form human trafficking takes or for what purpose human trafficking occurs in Canada, our laws can fully and properly address this criminal conduct.

Human trafficking victims will also be able to benefit from other recent criminal law reforms. Bill C-2, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (protection of children and other vulnerable persons), received Royal Assent on July 20, 2005. It will be proclaimed into force on a date to be determined. This bill enacted criminal law reforms that seek to make the criminal justice process more sensitive to the realities of vulnerable victims.

Hon. Fernand Robichaud (The Hon. the Acting Speaker): Honourable Senator Jaffer, I regret having to interrupt you, but the Blackberry mobile devices seem to be interfering with the sound system. I ask therefore that those senators currently using them to turn them off so that we can better hear the Honourable Senator Jaffer.

Senator Jaffer: As a result, trafficking victims may now be able to provide their testimony with the assistance of testimonial aids such as screens, closed-circuit televisions or with the assistance of support people.

Honourable senators, Bill C-49 is an important part of Canada’s on-going efforts to combat human trafficking. Having said that, we know that legislative reforms alone cannot fully address the scourge that we know human trafficking to be.

That is why I am pleased to know that Bill C-49 is part of a broader Canadian initiative to prevent trafficking, to protect its victims and to prosecute the offenders. The Minister of Justice has referred to this approach as the three Ps — prevent, protect and prosecute — dovetails with the international community’s response to this crime.

The government has undertaken measures in support of the three Ps, including increasing public awareness through a website, posters and a pamphlet that is available in 14 languages and that has been widely distributed within Canada and abroad, through Canadian embassies, to warn persons who may be vulnerable to this form of criminal conduct.

The government has also supported public forums and professional training for law enforcement, again with a view to raising public and professional awareness of and responses to human trafficking.

I understand that the ongoing federal efforts to combat human trafficking continue to be coordinated by the Interdepartmental Working Group on Trafficking in Persons, which is co-chaired by the Departments of Justice and Foreign Affairs and is currently developing a federal anti-trafficking strategy.

In summary, I urge all honourable senators to support this bill. It will clearly and strongly denounce this crime, it will provide increased protection to vulnerable persons and it will increase accountability for those who engage in it.

Honourable senators, I believe that Bill C-49 affirms the fundamental values for which Canada is respected the world over. Those values are liberty, equality and justice. I hope that all honourable senators will join with me and strongly support the quick passage of this bill into law.

The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Would Senator Jaffer consent to a question?

Senator Jaffer: Of course.

Hon. Jerahmiel S. Grafstein: Honourable senators, I consider this to be an excellent bill. We, who have been active at the Organization for the Security and Economic Cooperation in Europe, which includes Canada and the United States, have been tracking this issue for over five years and we are delighted that our efforts and the efforts of the United Nations has finally brought this to fruition in this particular bill.

I have a couple of questions for the honourable senator about the bill to see whether or not the scope of the bill — not in terms of enforcement but in terms of protection — is adequate.

As honourable senators know, one problem with trafficking is that the victim becomes the double victim. Victims are brought into the process — a person, male or female, mostly female, sometimes with children, sometimes without — are trafficked from the four corners of the earth and the target market is Europe, Canada or the United States. Somewhere between 15,000 and 20,000 people are trafficked through Canada every year. Obviously this bill not only deals with the international but also the domestic scope.

When a person — a woman in particular who is vulnerable and young — is dragged into this process, to break loose of this economic pipeline that she has been injected into, her personal protection is a problem. She is without papers and the question is this: If she challenges the system and those who put her into this bondage, into this slave trade, does this bill satisfy her needs in terms of protecting her, not only as a victim who will blow the whistle, in effect, but also ensure that she will be fairly treated under our immigration process once she is here?

Senator Jaffer: When I was at the European Women’s Lobby, there was a lot of talk about the fact that in Europe, North America and Canada sometimes trafficking and migration are confused. I have had a number of these cases already. Under the Immigration Act and under our humanitarian and compassionate category in our immigration legislation we have been able to make a case for the women who get out of this bondage. However, there is a lot more work we can do. I am sure this will be explored in the committee. Besides it being explored in the committee, this is the first stage. It is the foundation. The next stage is, we must ensure that the women are protected under our immigration system.

Senator Grafstein: I am glad to hear that. I hope the committee will look at this issue and bring national and international evidence to bear, because the broad powers will not work if the women or children who are in the pipeline do not feel that they will be fully and completely protected as witnesses and in terms of their status. Without that protection, the broad powers will not work because of the confidentiality and fear that is injected into these victims.

I hope the government will be open to broaden this bill to provide adequate protection to those people who are victims. I am satisfied that the learned senator will make sure that this aspect is fully explored in the committee.

The University of Chicago had a seminar on this subject. It was excellent. I was one of the speakers there. I would be glad to send the honourable senator a copy of the speech that dealt with all these issues.

Senator Jaffer: I thank the honourable senator for that submission. It is not just of women who are trafficked but even, under our immigration bill, women who are brought here under the live-in care program. Also, women who come as mail order brides or for arranged marriages sometimes suffer a lot of abuses. Those are all of the challenges and this will help us look at the next steps.

Hon. Serge Joyal: Would the honourable senator entertain another question?

Senator Jaffer: Yes.

Senator Joyal: Honourable senators, I was one of those who thought that the infamous program of the exotic dancers was a shame on Canada’s reputation. It occurs to me that most of those persons were recruited under the false pretext that they were coming to Canada to work in the hotel and tourism industries, and of course under the lure of high wages and even the prospect of getting married and establishing a family on a permanent basis in Canada. It is one of those horrendous initiatives whereby to meet the need of “labour markets,” Canada was in fact complicit in the sex trade. Once they were in Canada, it was as if it were no longer anyone’s responsibility to assume the plight of those women.

I hope, honourable senator, that the amendments brought to section 279.01 of the Criminal Code by this bill has wording broad enough to catch that awful program in its net. It should never have existed. If no Canadian women want to fill those jobs, there is a reason: It is because they feel shame in occupying those positions. Why should a foreign woman be mistreated for doing something that a Canadian woman does not want to do? They are brought here and left on their own and they fall into the blackmail of their employers.

I believe, honourable senators, that if Bill C-49 can answer the situation denounced by Senator Pépin in one of her Senators’ Statements a year ago, I think that this bill must be supported wholeheartedly.

Senator Jaffer: We can learn from that situation and be humbled by what happened with exotic dancers. That kind of situation happens even in our country and we should not become complacent in thinking that it only happens elsewhere in the world.

One challenge women face in coming to our country is the points system we have, which is unequal. Sometimes the only way women can come into this country is through such terrible trafficking programs. Once this bill has been given consent in the future, we will have to look at how our Immigration Act is unequal when it comes to women.